Historic Victorian Porch or Modern Deck - - Which is it?

This historic Victorian porch restoration had us guessing for a while. Every architectural era is defined by the contemporary lifestyle and building technology, but every once in a while we encounter a building that jumps the rail, so to speak, into another era. An example is this surprising Victorian residence in Somerville. Note the modern feel to the 8 foot deep unroofed deck. That can’t be Victorian! It looks like a modern deck addition.

Unusual historic Victorian bay window and un-roofed porch.

Except that the millwork is all Victorian. The City of Somerville Historic Preservation Commission furnished us with period photographs of the structure that removed all doubt that this was original work, as built. With the help of their archive, we restored the period millwork, furnishing faithful reproduction historical elements, as necessary. 

The more time that we spent with this building, the more we came to appreciate the inspired logic behind the builder’s innovative design. It started with the assertive corner bay window. If the deep porch was roofed over, the bay would be obscured as a dramatic exterior feature, and impaired in its function of admitting light into the interior. The builder’s solution was simple - - an unroofed deck, anticipating a feature which is commonplace now but which was unique at the time.

Ample depth to this Victorian deck.
Archival view of Victorian deck. Courtesy Somerville Historic Preservation Commission.